Little Stories of the People: Kinship






She's heard it again and again, a worrisome refrain: don't go out after dark.

But the days are growing shorter, and the thing that frightens her more than the prospect of what could happen is the possibility of living a life bounded by her own fears. So she says a prayer, keeps a firm grip on her purse, and projects an air of untouchable confidence.

Aboard the chappa, the air hangs heavy with the beat of Afro music, dust, cologne. Passengers cram inside, a solid mass of anxious people trying to get home. She squeezes up small to make more space, glad of the crowd that forces her to focus outside herself. 

A young mother scrambles in, vying for space for herself, her little boy, and the baby tied to her back. She watches the mother perch precariously on a broken seat, watches the boy face imminent danger of being knocked down by the urgent crowd. 

"Senhora, o menino pode sentar no meu colo."

The woman flashes her a smile, brilliant in the semidarkness.

"Obrigada." And then, to the boy, "Vai, senta com tia."

She reaches over and hoists the boy into her lap, smiling inwardly at her sudden induction to that vast network of aunties and uncles, cousins and grandparents that is the birthright of every African child.

A new song comes over the speaker system. It's a familiar one this time and she begins to hum along, and then to sing because one doesn't stay silent when Fernandinho comes on.

"Uma nova história Deus tem para mim."

She glances over and and sees that the young mother is also mouthing the words.

"Um novo tempo Deus tem pra mim."

"Gosto dessa música." She says. The other woman smiles and nods, still singing.

She shifts the little boy into a better position on her lap, humming, searching for the harmony line. The night becomes a place of companionship, pressing them all together into a space of circling arms and familiar song. 

She feels, again, that warm inner glow of the unlikely kinships that wait for those who live at the edges of uncertainty. 


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